Nomadland helmer says the moment was a touching tribute to a late crew member.

Frances McDormand let out a bellowing howl Sunday night on the Oscars stage, but the show-stopping moment was more than just a primal expression of joy in celebration.

"The howling is for our Production Sound Mixer, Wolf, who you saw in the memorial," Nomadland director Chloé Zhao said in the Oscars press room, referencing the late Michael Wolf Snyder, who died in March and appeared in the Academy's In Memoriam segment during the telecast. "We unfortunately lost him recently. [He worked on] my previous film The Rider, and Nomadland. He's part of the family. That howling to the moon is for Wolf."

According to Variety, Snyder's father confirmed that the 35-year-old died by suicide after living with depression for many years.

"He seemed especially joyful and invigorated in these last few months since he was able to return to work on several different film projects," his father, David, reportedly wrote in a Facebook post announcing his son's death. "He was certainly thrilled about all of the accolades for Nomadland and told us many happy stories about his work on the film and the amazing people he got to spend time with."

Frances McDormand howling at the Oscars: Chloé Zhao explains why.
| Credit: AMPAS/ABC via Getty Images

Prior to Nomadland making history at the Oscars — including Zhao becoming the first woman of color to win Best Director and McDormand becoming the most-decorated living actress with four overall trophies (one for Best Picture, three for acting) — the film's producer-star expressed deep admiration for Wolf's contributions.

"Wolf recorded our heart beats. Our every breath," she said in a statement. "For me, he is Nomadland."

At the Oscars, McDormand ended her Best Picture acceptance speech by saying, "We give this one to our Wolf" before howling at the sky, though she gave no context for the moment on stage.

Watch Zhao discuss the tribute to Wolf above.

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